Arafura Sea to Timor Sea - and Gugari Rip

Tropical sailing near equator, Northern Australia, Sager season

After sailing from Cairns, to Thursday Island, through Torres Strait and further, we had the last leg to go - towards Darwin. This was a part of Australia Circumnavigation, which I thought I'd only join for this little while - but (a spoiler) little did I know I was to experience much more of Aussie coast later on! Check out here how you can sail with us.

The coasts around Arafura Sea, nearing Gugari Rip

The heat was getting higher. I don't know how it was in Arnhem, but in Torres Strait there were different seasons that were associated with the wind. The islanders themselves associate themselves with the land, the sea and the sky, and these are interwoven through beliefs, stories, song and dance. The seasons are named Kuki (strong NW winds, Jan-April, wet season); Sager (SE trade winds, May-Dec, dry season); Nay Gay (N winds, Oct-Dec, highest heat and humidity); and Zey (S winds, randomly through the year). Here, we were at Sager which was quite comfortable.

Preparing to enter Gugari Rip

We sailed off from Gove Harbour and started off with going through the Gugari Rip, aka Hole in the Wall. 

Getting closer to Gugari Rip

This natural channel is very narrow, and with the tides in these waters the currents in there can be very strong. But with a great timing by Sharon and David, we flew through there with no worries at all, and a pleasant 1,5 knots behind us.

Dave in total control - the team gathered ready for action

After Silver Fern entered the Rip, our sister boat Salt Lines followed suite. We took a lot of photos on the way, the rock wall was beautiful, consisting of flat formation. In Sweden, there is such thing as a pancake cake. It sort of sprang into my mind when I saw some of the formations.

Inside the Gugari Rip

After the Gugari Rip, we anchored for a rest with an amazing sunset watching. The beach nearby looked very crockey. And yes, in the morning we saw fresh croc tracks there, going towards the water! Not wanting to repeat the polar bear experience from Eastern Greenland, I made sure to stay well within the boat's safety, not testing the risks.

What the beaches may look like

The next leg was to be 225 nautical miles. I had time to so a short workout on deck, combining calisthenics and nearby gear for some lifting. Freya, a friendly crew member and a great adventurer and sailor, joined me for that.

Workout on deck. The petrol cans are perfect for doing curls!

As we started moving, we soon got into the routines again. I was waking up from a rest between watches when I heard some cheering - we had done 1000 nM since the start, and Sharon had called it within a minute!

Photos from earlier anchorages

Photos from earlier anchorages - happy team!

Photos from earlier anchorages - happy team

Photos from earlier anchorages

As we arrived to Cobourg peninsula, we were not allowed to get a permit to get on shore. This was because of ongoing land disputes. But anchorage was an option. So that was what we did. Also, we did a tiny race between the two boats. Of course, we let them win ;)

Salt Lines making the best out of the wind

The water has been amazing all the way. So turquoise it seemed almost unnatural. I am not sure what causes that color, probably the white sand on the bottom and the clear water. Even when the skies are gray, the water color stays the same. In Sweden, when the sky is cloudy, the water turns a steel-gray color.

Holding up a turquoise cushion to compare to the water.

Sometimes, it would be streaked by brown foamy substance. We knew that this was coral spawn, that would stream in huge amounts and hopefully give life to new coral somewhere. But the neverending joke was that Salt Lines had emptied their toilet tanks!

The coral spawn floating by

The last stop before Darwin was Adams Bay, at the mouth of Adelaide River. The guide book called this Port Daly and promised crocs everywhere. Finally, we'd get some proper photos! The tour operators would take tourists here, and give the crocs some food to have them jump up from the water. Great - we had some food on board, and by this I do not mean the crew - so we headed there with the cameras ready. We had a briefing about safety, so no dangling of any body parts over board. Even the hand signs while raising anchor were held above the deck, not over the water.

Bush fires at the distance. These are apparently controlled and burn the undergrowth to protect the bush from unintentional fires.

The river mouth was shallow, a sand bank that had to be negotiated slowly, then a channel where we could anchor. The water was brown in color, the wind had stopped, the heat was on. And there were no crocs in sight.

We waited and waited. The binoculars gave us a few potential sightings, all unconfirmed. We used the time to do some practical stuff on board, I had a shower for instance, and the crew made an amazing dinner of roast lamb. Still no crocs.

We watched the moon rise. It was the Blue Moon, a second full moon this month. We were carefully planning the last leg towards Darwin. This passage had some tricky currents so we needed to time it meticulously with the tides in order to pass the narrow channel safely.

Sun setting in croc country

We had roast lamb for dinner, listened to some music and did some laundry, in a very relaxed pace.

Little did we know that all plans were going right out of the window! See next blog post here.